The argument against getting too worked up about the loony things Donald Trump, as the president of the United States, thinks and says is: He’s joking, snowflake! Take him seriously, but not literally, blah blah blah. Trump has been the focal point of American political life for years now, everyone knows what we’re dealing with at this point. And still, every once in a while, you get an unvarnished glimpse of how Trump’s mind works—like, how it actually processes inputs, arrives at conclusions, and articulates them—and it’s terrifying all over again. In part, because it’s simplistic and juvenile, laced with adolescent fantastical thinking. But it is also that very adolescent thinking that, instead of being hilarious, is so chillingly sinister. There are no nuanced, grownup solutions. There are good guys and bad guys and spikes and monsters and killer alligators and moats around castles.
The latest example of this, comes from the New York Times this week, which painted a picture of Trump’s conversations with advisers last March, as he ranted and raved and fumed about the border situation with Mexico:
Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.
Get it? Do you get the joke?